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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Best And The Worst Presidents

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." - James Madison, Federalist No. 51

Today there is much being said about Ronald Reagan on his 100th birthday. While Reagan is dead there are still many who celebrate the birthday of the Gipper.

This got me thinking about our 44 presidents and who I consider the best and the worst. The criteria I am using to make my selections are: Contribution to ensuring the freedom and democracy in the United States, adherence to the first principals of the Constitution, providing an environment for the growth of capitalism, and limiting the growth of government.

The Best

No. 1: George Washington. As our first president George Washington had the responsibility for solidifying a new nation and setting an example of how and what a president of the United States should do. He had a newly adopted Constitution to guide him and a new form of republican government to oversee. All other revolts before him had failed do to the failings of the men who took charge after the guns had been out down. These men had no constitution to guide them and eventually they fell back to the same dictatorial government they had overthrown. It was up to Washington to lead by example, even though there were those who wanted him to be or act like a king. Washington, a humble and religious man knew that is was the constitution, not the men sworn to uphold it that should be the guiding light for the presidency. After serving two terms and seeing the roots of the constitution he took his leave of the presidency and retired to his farm at Mount Vernon.

No. 2: Abraham Lincoln. As our 16th President Lincoln took on the awesome responsibility of holding the federal union together. To do this he had to fight a war against his own brethren, a war that cost over 600,000 lives. He also had to deal with the Washington elites, radical abolitionist and his own generals. Without Lincoln’s steadfast belief that the Confederacy had to be total defeated we would not have the union of states we have today.

No. 3: Ronald Reagan. As our 40th president Reagan succeeded the disastrous administration of Jimmy Carter. He inherited a deep economic recession, an international crisis with the Iranian crisis, a weak and ineffective foreign policy and an escalating cold war with communism. During his eight years in office he was able to right the economy and have six years of sustain growth by cutting taxes, even though he had to deal with a Democrat Congress. The hostages were released on the day he was inaugurated as he Iranians knew they had a new sheriff to deal with. His “Peace through Strength” foreign policy sent a message to the Soviet Union that we were willing to pay the price to put an end to the “evil empire.” His military buildup convinced the Soviets that they could not keep pace with us, especially out proposed Space Defense Initiative (Star Wars), without going broke. His only disappointment was that Berlin Wall did not fall during his watch, even though he laid all of the groundwork for his successor, George H .W. Bush.

No. 4: Calvin Coolidge. As our 30th president Coolidge replaced Warren Harding upon his death in office. During his six years office Coolidge repaired the damage to our economy caused by the social policies of Woodrow Wilson. After the end of the First World War the nation entered a depression caused by the high taxes and spending to support the war Wilson promised he would not become involved in. Coolidge had a firm belief in low taxes and small government. He also believed that a free and unhindered market would allow capitalism to flourish — and flourish it did. The nation had unprecedented economic growth resulting in the “Roaring Twenties” when the standard of living increased in all classes.

No. 5: Grover Cleveland. He was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897) and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents. He was the winner of the popular vote for president three times—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and was the only Democrat elected to the presidency in the era of Republican political domination that lasted from 1860 to 1912. Cleveland was the leader of the pro-business Bourbon Democrats who opposed high tariffs, free silver, inflation, imperialism and subsidies to business, farmers or veterans. His battles for political reform and fiscal conservatism made him an icon for American conservatives. Cleveland won praise for his honesty, independence, integrity, and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism. As a reformer he worked indefatigably against political corruption, patronage, and bossism. Cleveland took strong positions and in turn took heavy criticism. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions nationwide and angered the party in Illinois; his support of the gold standard and opposition to free silver alienated the agrarian wing of the Democratic Party. Biographer Allan Nevins wrote, "In Grover Cleveland the greatness lies in typical rather than unusual qualities. He had no endowments that thousands of men do not have. He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence, and common sense. But he possessed them to a degree other men do not. He was a president who believed in the principals of the Constitution.

The Worst

No.1: Jimmy Carter. Carter was the 39th president and perhaps one of the worst presidents in the history of the United States. During his administration government grew with the establishment of the Department of Energy, our military became weakened and 54 Americans languished in Iran as hostages for 444 days. When he left office in January, 1981 the nations was in the greatest economic recession of the 20th century. He was a weak leader who called our problems a “great malaise” and gathered a council of citizens to give him ideas for righting the ship of state. Inflation was at 12% and home mortgage rates had reached 21%. The Soviets pain him little heed and invaded Afghanistan, for which Carter’s response was to urge a boycott of the 1980 summer Olympic Games in Moscow.

No. 2: Richard Nixon. The 37th President and the only President to resign the office Nixon trodded all over the Constitution with his using the power of the federal government to trampled on the rights of American citizens. He established the Environmental Protection Agency and instituted price controls to curb inflation caused by increases in the price of oil. He left the office in disgrace on August 9, 1974 and left the Republican party in shambles.

No. 3: Barak Husein Obama. Probably the most unqualified man in the history of the country to be president Obama, in his two years as president has resided of the greatest recession of the past 100 years. As a community organizer from Chicago he is a novice at economics and foreign policy. He has appointed the most left wing radicals as his advisors and has a socialist ideology that is based on some radical sense of social and economic justice. He has two years remaining in his term in office and we can only pray that the Republican controlled House of Representatives can contain his policies.

No. 4: Gerald Ford. Ford became the 38th President of the United States upon the resignation of Richard Nixon. As the first person appointed to the vice-presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment (after the resignation of Spiro Agnew), when he became President upon Richard Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974, he became the only President of the United States who was never elected President or Vice-President before ascending to the vice-presidency. He was a weak progressive Republican from Michigan who was a nice guy, but not a leader. Ford presided over what was then the worst economy since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure. One of his more controversial acts was to grant a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. During Ford’s incumbency, foreign policy was characterized in procedural terms by the increased role Congress began to play, and by the corresponding curb on the powers of the President. In 1976, Ford narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, but ultimately lost the presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter, thus opening the door for the worst president in our history to take the oath of office. He also appointed John Paul Stevens as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States — one of the most liberal justices of the 20th century.

No. 5: Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson was the 36th President of the United States. As a political boss from Texas Johnson was a big spender who pushed through his “Great Society” legislation, one of the worst pieces of legislation since reconstruction after the end of the Civil War. As President, was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, Public Broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, and his "War on Poverty." He was renowned for his domineering personality and the "Johnson treatment," his coercion of powerful politicians in order to advance legislation. Simultaneously, he greatly escalated direct American involvement in the Vietnam War. As the war dragged on, Johnson's popularity as President steadily declined. After the 1966 mid-term Congressional elections, his re-election bid in the 1968 United States presidential election collapsed as a result of turmoil within the Democratic Party related to opposition to the Vietnam War. He withdrew from the race amid growing opposition to his policy on the Vietnam War and a worse-than-expected showing in the New Hampshire primary. Johnson’s memorial can be found prominently displayed in Washington D.C., it’s called the Vietnam Wall.

This is my list of the five best and five worst Presidents of the United States. I am sure you will have others to add or subtract from the list. There may be presidents that should be on this list and in some ways more or less competent than the ones I mention, but for the criteria I used I think these Presidents belong here. You can see a full list of our Presidents by clicking here.

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